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Parent, Community Members Pay Off Negative Student Meal Balances in FBISD

(FORT BEND ISD) – Two good Samaritans have paid more than $2,000 in negative meal balances at three Fort Bend ISD schools: Drabek, Quail Valley and Seguin elementary schools.

Parent Liam Bourdo paid the balance at Drabek elementary where his son attends. It was $250. Kenny Thompson of Feed the Future Forward paid the negative balances at Quail Valley and Seguin elementary schools. They were chosen because they have high percentages of students considered economically disadvantaged. The two schools’ balances were a total of $1,359.76.

Thompson established Feed the Future Forward nine years ago after seeing a student he was mentoring receive an alternative lunch because the student had no money in their account. It moved him to begin paying off the balances of students across Houston. He has made donations to 13 Houston area school districts, including Cy-Fair and Spring Branch where he has permanent donation accounts. Thompson is a union stage technician in Houston’s theater district and has enlisted help and received donations regularly through the years from his colleagues to help pay off students’ balances.

“It’s an honor to be here to help with these negative accounts,” Thompson said when he made the FBISD donation. “This is what we do and it’s our pleasure.”

Since the start of school in August, FBISD students have accrued a total negative balance of $44,766.99. Parents are contacted throughout the year with reminders to pay off their students’ accounts, but the district’s Child Nutrition Department typically ends the year with a negative balance. This amount is usually paid with money from the district’s General Operating fund.

“There is so much negativity in the world,” FBISD Superintendent Christie Whitbeck said. “Then you get a moment where you hear about people who do things that are kind. This year, that’s our theme – a culture of kindness. We’re trying to build that and instill that in the children. When we have parents and community members who do that, it just reinforces what we’re teaching the kids.”

Since learning of Thompson’s and Bourdo’s good deed, an anonymous donor also paid the negative balance for students at FBISD’s Oyster Creek Elementary School.

With rising food prices, in part due to inflation, the cost of providing student meals continues to rise. The district says it then “unfortunately becomes economically necessary for students who accrue a negative balance of more than $25 to receive alternative meals for breakfast and lunch.” The district also says some students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals but do not apply for the benefit despite frequent reminders from the district.

FBISD students, like others across the nation, were able to universally receive free breakfast and lunch meals during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years due to United States Department of Agriculture waivers. These waivers were discontinued this school year despite the continued economic fallout of the pandemic. Families must now purchase student meals on campus if they do not qualify for free or reduced-price meals or they may bring their own.


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